In the grand scheme of things, the Internet is still a relatively new – and fast-changing – medium for journalism. In fact, the field is still discovering how to use it effectively. As new technologies are introduced and standardized, new formats become achievable and sustainable. And as journalists explore these new technologies, expect new form factors for reporting, and new amalgams of the reporting/investigating process. One new form is a type of web app that allows for exploration of a large set of data, giving users the control over the content they consume — rather than the old-fashioned way of serving stories in an order determined by an editor (or editorial team). A great new example of this form factor is the Roads Kill project by the Pulitzer Center.
The project focuses on the growing death rate on roads around the world, and is aimed at raising public awareness of an extremely preventable problem. As the number of cars around the world increases, the number of traffic fatalities does too. With 1.2 million deaths per year now, and a rate of increase set to triple that number by 2030, the issue is something we cannot afford to ignore. The Pulitzer Center’s map aims to make those numbers much more visible – and personable. The map is visually stunning, with a black and yellow color scheme that suggests caution signs. It will continuously stay up to date as new data gets added, and journalists from around the world add reports that get geotagged and end up on the map itself. Projects like this show how journalism continues to evolve beyond standard reporting and investigating. The Internet opens up a global audience, and as the audience scale changes, so does the scale of the reporting. A project like this takes a concerted effort from many different people in different organizations — and brings value to everyone. Drew Skau is Visualization Architect at Visual.ly and a PhD Computer Science Visualization student at UNCC with an undergraduate degree in Architecture. You can follow him on twitter @SeeingStructure